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So it’s been *checks notes* a hot minute since we’ve done this but in case it’s your first day here or the first sober moment since those mushrooms turned on you this is where we vaguely cover “how to review an album”. That is to say in this segment we’ll be cross checking different staffers’ approaches to putting words together. Maybe you’re a budding reviewer, on the cusp of greatness, searching for that piece of the puzzle lost on the floor or maybe your mum just logged you on to the household’s singular trusty laptop and you don’t know what to do with your fifteen minute screen allowance before the older sibling demands the computer for…research? Either way, you’ve come to the right place!

First off. Who are you and how did you get here?

I’m Kompy I got here cuz I got locked out of my Webkinz account and figured this was the next best thing. webinx

But you are the show-poni of the hour. The creme della creme. How has your reviewing got you to this perceivable reception point? What makes Kompys so chompy?

Weed brownies and poor sleep health :)

Weed, brownies or weed brownies? Remind me to compare recipe cards later.

Ooh, got anything with walnuts?

A couple of salads, nothing of note. Maybe some caramalised beetroot?

You always know how to make a mouth water, chef!

And how does that cream turn to butter? Hard work? Dedication?

On a certain level it’s funny to describe any amount of sitting at a keyboard and snarking about indie rock as “hard work”, but yeah, I definitely treat my Sputnik posting career as a “full-time hobby”, if that gives you a picture of the space it occupies in my daily life. I hold my prose to a pretty darn high standard and hate the feeling of talking out of my ass, so I spend a lot of time looking up band histories and tweaking phrasings to manage the proper tone and hopping back and forth between songs or albums or artists to make sure every comparison holds water. Not that I don’t still trip up and get stuff wrong both subjectively and objectively like any other critic, but I do try my girl scout best to come correct with each review.

Let’s talk about prose. How does one structure this into their writing? A given since normal language in something like a written review is often looked at as an excuse to flex our thinking muscle or even open another tab full of synonyms.

My motivational-speaker/thought-leader style answer is by being patient and taking baby steps. Build big, exciting points out of little exciting points, hunt for ideas until you find one that drives you to argue for or against it, be interesting by being interested.

My no-bullshit answer is by reading reading reading! A big part of prose for me has been drilling the rhythms into my head, memorizing the basic shapes of argumentation and exposition inside and out, getting to a point where I know what a cohesive paragraph is supposed to look/feel/smell like. Like that one art museum owner who grokked that a statue he had bought was like, “wrong” the second he saw it in-person even though it had been exhaustively vetted, and had to spend years more vetting it even MORE exhaustively to reveal it as the fake it was all along— learning all the rules and standards is no substitute for sharpening your ability to know the real deal when you see it.

How many reviews do you have on this site? No, disregard that. How many reviews are you truly proud of?

I’m proud of all my reviews insofar as critical analysis is, to me, an intrinsically healthy and rewarding undertaking that has at every turn taught me to write and think and BE better. As for how many I think are fully well-articulated, free of structural jank, making an interesting point etc? Ehh, maybe a dozen-ish if I’m feeling generous? I wouldn’t publish a review I wasn’t proud of writing, but I have retrospective notes on most of what I do— can’t stop editing, baby! My favorite thing I’ve written so far is, regarding what my own tastes as a reader are, probably still the Bull of Heaven review, and regarding my efforts as a writer I did loads of researching and polishing for the Willi Carlisle one and screamed for an hour when he said he liked it on Twitter.

Do you ever nostalgia edit and fix up the fixer-uppers in the name of self-improvement? Or do you let history rest and ‘do better’ next time?

I will always and forever fix typos or actual misinformation, and I have been known to occasionally sneak in some more-appropriate synonym or caveat or other relatively minor touch-up (and I’m sure I’ve nixed at least one whole sentence out of some mild and vague problematic-flavored shame). Beyond that, my perfectionism is far too slippery a slope to indulge. Tearing down my (very bad) original 21st Century Breakdown review and starting again mostly from scratch is a decision I stand by but don’t relish the thought of repeating. fixing things

How important is context within reviews? More importantly, how do you cut straight to the point without missing out on the nitty-gritty? 

I’m the wrong person to ask for that one; I nearly always have to spend a small eternity talking my way to the album at hand lmao. Context is the best! I often find the point is the nitty-gritty, and starting there is a great first step to an angle that can fill 5 paragraphs. If I get sidetracked, I can shear away the inessential stuff later, and sometimes I even do!

About that self-imposed writing limit. Is that five paragraph litmus a hard ceiling? Say if you get four and a half done, do you lose sleep over it?

Oh, it’s neither ceiling nor floor, more a happy standing eye-level where a majority of reviews tend to stop feeling “incomplete” to me. It’s like a table— gotta have at least three “legs” to support whatever hyperbolic ravings I want to lay down on my intro/outro. Some writers can take a comprehensive snapshot of an album in a single paragraph; I’m so jealous of those writers that I started a whole list series trying to do what they do but with individual songs instead of full albums and I still managed to end up writing multi-paragraph theses!

What’s your writing style? Which way do you lean; the long explorative journey down memory lane or the snap bird’s flight to yonder destination?

I could probably be dissected as some Frankenstein of all the A&E writing I grew up reading (A.V. Club, P4k, local zines, a truly irresponsible amount of /mu/ shitposting etc etc), with of course a fruity gen-z spin, but in the interest of brevity: When I stylize my writing in a way that doesn’t at least nominally line up with the way I actually think/speak, I’m usually biting Dan Olson, Emily St. James or Nathan Rabin. Or John Hodgman, for bits and gaffes.

I’ve always been partial to explorative journeys, although they’re murder to actually try and write. Hot-take sizzle has a much more reliable oomph to it and with an even remotely fresh perspective it’s one of the straightest paths to a readable week-of, but big honkin’ deep dives pay off BIGLY when the stars all align for it.stars align

Help us understand the relative importance of a score to the written analysis of a record?

Zip. Zilch. Rating music and reviewing music are two entirely separate things that must exist in harmonious balance and never interfere with each other.

But .9 scores are a bit of a trigger to the userbase maybe?

I’m open to writing a 3.9 or a 2.9 review sometime, triggering or otherwise. Not a 4.9 though, give it that last .1 you cheapskate. It’s done so much for you already!

wittrAre you referencing a specific Wolves In the Throne Room review written by yours truly? It’s such a great album!

Goodness, I’ve been cornered into advising that somebody 5 a black metal album, you sly fox! A play that canny deserves a golden bump to match. And here I thought I could avoid putting my foot in my mouth…

I would normally say “Ha, I got you!” but this seems to be a happy accident. 

Okay. It’s draft time. Using no more than five of the current contributing and staffing rosters – who is your dream team of writers and why?

Oh no, only five?? Alright uhhhhhhhh

You may add a bench warmer. Just one.

I kind of think of Johnny and Sowing as exemplifying the yin and yang of Sput-writing: One capricious and cynical and enamored with language games, the other steadfast and agreeable and a direct, clear communicator. They’re our classic straight arrow/loose cannon duo and I would make them do “capers” together.

Milo is a ferociously talented scene-setter and has an enviable knack for jostling his readers out of placid scrollsumption fugues and I would make him edit me more.

Mars is the heart of the crew, ever-eager to improve and grow, with a flair for dramatics that fits his cheesy-angsty tastes like a glove. He will keep us from resting on our laurels and I would make him review more stuff I’m actually interested in listening to.

Fogza is my pick for contrib MVP (though you’re all doing great except for Norma and Neeka who both need to WRITE MORE!!!) and I would make him pester the meds thread for more review features.

Asleep can be my benchwarmer he is warm, and I bet he will bring snacks to share.

Should Johnny review more albums above the 3.3 threshold?

Only if the rest of us knuckle down and commit to at least one sub-3 album quarterly!

Is Sunbather Deafheaven’s greatest accomplishment? Where is your review for metal’s besterest album?

I was unaware that they had any other accomplishments! I really like that Sunbather is as relatively normie and as canonized as it is right now. It’s nice to have an extreme metal album that’s that mushy and romantic; you can play “Dream House” at a bookstore and ruffle not one feather! Still not gonna give it a rating tho lolSunbather Deafheaven

For prospective writers out there, how should a writer deal with criticism, constructive or otherwise? Which one are you?

At the end of the day, you either stand by your shit or you don’t. If you can look at your own creation and say, “I think you’re wrong, I like the thing I did and the way I did it”, then there’s no reason for any kind of good faith criticism to get under your skin. If you can’t, fantastic! You’ve gotten something far more valuable than mere validation— a reason to prove you can do better. If someone cares enough to voice a complaint, you should care at least enough to decide for yourself whether or not they’re right.

I’m definitely a constructive critic when it comes to writing. When I helped teach little kids’ karate as a tween, I had an instructor who taught us to make “compliment sandwiches” for offering feedback— you point out what’s working before you tackle what doesn’t and reaffirm the right tracks they’re already on afterwards. Obviously that level of coddling isn’t usually necessary when you aren’t working with six-year-olds, but the principle has always rang true to me: you catch more verb-tense inconsistencies with honey than with vinegar, and a gentle nudge towards existent strengths can often do twice the work of a slap away from pertinent pitfalls.

Other advice for earnestly reviewing music? Specifically, to the written form please.

Imagine your reviews as speeches! The written word and the spoken word are not the same thing, but it never hurts the former to stay in touch with the latter. Imagining your points being spoken out loud forces you to think with your voice and not your pen, and you’ll lose the homework-y stiffness so many novice critics tend to get stuck with.

Your favourite review found in the dusty catacombs of Sputnikmusic’s dusty servers?

I am of course not going to limit myself to just one, but if I were I’d have to be a real basic bitch and go with Chan’s TDAG review— there’s a reason people here still mention it specifically as a formative piece of music writing for them. It’s always the first thing to spring to my mind when I consider the idiosyncratically Spunik-ian PASSION for music which I cherish so much.

HolidayKirk’s entire “For Tomorrow” series is a wonderfully entertaining and accessible read and the entry on Radiohead’s The Bends in particular illustrates how nerddom can hurt fandom in a strikingly elegant way that I sort of always have at the back of my head now.

Lastly, Park’s Thulêan Mysteries write-up is both the funniest joke review I’ve read in my time here and every inch the dressing-down that a creative endeavor as comprehensively worthless as MYFAROG deserves.

And separately, the review that first inspired you to write for Sputnik, become a contributor and eventually become Staff?

The reviews were, on a linear timeline, really the last thing to inspire me about Sputnik, if I’m being brutally honest. I published my first few reviews here because the layout facilitated me playing pretend at being Lester Bangs better than RYM did, and I’ve kept at it because the userbase was and still is full of informed and very engaged readers who have, against all odds, proven whenever necessary that they’re worth attempting to impress or entertain at least once a month. Don’t get me wrong though: the melting pot of would-be professionals, casual hobbyists, and barely literate amateurs that is the Sputnik reviews bar is now genuinely one of my favorite parts of the whole entire internet, right alongside Archive of our Own, which I love for similar reasons. We’re a real Ratatouille kitchen, you know— anyone can cook here, and that more than anything is what makes Sput a place where I want to prove myself.

I love this train of thought…


ladder climbing

I don’t want to outright dodge your question, though: A smattering of older writeups by folks like robertsona, Winesburgohio, FlawedPerfection and observer (not to mention the rise to infamy of our darling clown prince Johnny) definitely did a lot to establish Olympus in my mind as the “cool kids’ table”, full of music nerds par excellence and nebulous or trivial perks to lord over the lowly users and contribs. Of course, all that mystique is gone now, but I still think I’m in hella good company!

So far this series and its respective writers have thrown praise and adoration your way. Why do you think this is? How does this make you feel?

Welllllllllll *fidgets in attention whore* I think I’m, for good and for ill, a bit of a critics’ critic, like those are the sorts to whom the architecture of my mind palace is probably most familiar. Plus, I usually tend to write with an imagined audience of music lovers in mind, so I’mma try for those humility points and chalk that ‘why’ up to a mix of technical competence and shameless pandering, let’s saaaaay 60/40? It makes me feel an ummm normal regular amount of joy plus also a twinge of shocked disbelief that I have in some small way endured the mortifying ordeal of being known to receive the rewards of being loved. And you know what? I love you all too.

Parting words for new faces, scribes or people who only type using their respective pointer fingers?

Peck away, comrades! The future is now!

Words for everyone else?

Check Fugazi

Dewinged MarsKid AsleepInTheBack Tyman Jesper Johnny RobertSona

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It's Kompy time!!

>On a certain level it’s funny to describe any amount of sitting at a keyboard and snarking about indie rock as “hard work”
Hear hear! (but it also somehow is?) Chuffed to have a shoutout from one so talented (and driven!) ty Komp, keep on Kompyn' on
Love that these get posted at Oceania hours, it makes me feel like I can reach across the empty comments section and stroke Gnocchi

You'd just be finishing dinner by now wouldn't you dear? You may stroke my ego anytime.

We're a couple hours past that. I've had a couple of digestifs since dinner and now I'm out stalking neighbourhood dogs. Another great interview Gnochh, please link us your caramalised beetroot edibles recipe

I’ll slide it in your dms later dear

god kompys you are amazing and also terrifying. as in you are probably at least way too good for this website

Kompy is good and cool, how does this effect sleep token's emotional legacy

Hey it me :D

Check Fugazi

Another great installment, m/m/m/

Check Grotesque!

If kompy happy sput happy

Great read, keep them coming.

Not a lot more of these to come however there is still going to be juice.
I’ll find a new series in perhaps 6 months or next promotion cycle

"Not a lot more of these to come"

It is a shame there is not an endless stream of great staff to interview

This series is easy to pick back up if more interested parties surface. Never fear

juicy read!! love you Komp and Robert


Well, the staff tank is certainly not exhausted in this series.


I see you Sowing

@Voivod, find me in olympus and we'll nut out another contribution together.

Aww I'm on the team! Lovely read and thanks for the shout.

You have officially made it : ]

Failed to bump this when it dropped bc it was practically simultaneous with the ginormous contribpost, and that stole my fucking keyboard but this slaps and READING READING READING give us more reams parse komp I beg thee

esp love the parts about revs maintaining some relationship with orality and the rating/reviewing distinction and the what is this kitchen breakdown

The contribs are on fire agreed

Well done fellow word nerds

contribs are on fire [2]

Kompy is chompy agreed

like a chompy from the Mario series? Sounds rather dangerous

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